Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Story

I read a blog post yesterday that really touched me.  One mother shares a beautiful story that happened during her kindergartner's Christmas play.  If you have just 2 or 3 extra minutes during this very busy time - read this.  It truly puts this wonderful season in perspective.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

This week has been busy.  My goal was to get some sewing done for me and the family.  To get my feet wet and the tension set on my machine, I started with a holiday cuff for my dog, Layla's, neck.  The only red fabric I had in my stash was this plaid.  After I finished the cuff and put it on her, my son jokingly said that I ought to make her a kilt to go with it.  Well, by golly, I had just about enough material left to whip up a matching skirt for her cuff.  My family thinks I'm half nuts, but I think it's stinkin' hysterical. LOL  Anyway, Layla will be sporting her feminine side this year for Christmas.  Can anyone play Silent Night on the bag pipes? :0)

We're leaving tonight to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays out of state with family.  It will be good for Isaac to have so much time with all those cousins he doesn't get to see but a couple times a year.  I won't be around as often the rest of this year as I'll be enjoying my family, too.  I'll pop in as I can.  

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah, if that's what you celebrate. And, have a Happy New Year!  Enjoy this time with your family and friends.  And, most importantly, take time to remember Jesus, the reason we celebrate.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

...And A Partridge In A Pear Tree!

I think that just about everyone is familiar with the Christmas Carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas".  I grew up singing it, but never really understood it's meaning.  I thought it was just about some old Victorian custom of gift giving for the holidays.  Then, a few days ago I received an e-mail from my mom that explained this song.  I'd like to share it with you because I figure that if I grew up clueless to the meaning behind this beloved carol, maybe you're clueless, too. :0)

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.  It has two levels of meaning - the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

Here is what each day stood for...

1 - partridge in a pear tree = Jesus Christ
2 - turtle doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 - french hens = faith, hope and love
4 - calling birds = the four gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke & John
5 - golden rings = the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament;
     Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy 
6 - geese a-laying = the six days of creation
7 - swans a-swimming = the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit; prophecy,
     serving, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership and mercy
8 - maids a-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 - ladies dancing = the nine fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, 
     kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
10 - lords a-leaping = the ten commandments
11 - pipers piping = the eleven faithful disciples
12 - drummers drumming = the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed

You can click here for printable coloring pages that go with "The Twelve Days of Christmas".  I think they would be a great tool for teaching your kiddos the meaning behind the song and keep them out of your hair give them something to do while you finish up the last of your Christmas preparations. :0)

So, tell me - did you know the story behind the carol, or were you clueless like me?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Skin Care Series ~ Lavender & Chamomile Salve

Do you remember the hard lotion bars that I recently whipped up and put in the teacher gifts I made for Christmas?  Well, my family LOVES them.  My husband, who doesn't like any type of lotion uses the hard lotion on a daily basis and even puts it on his face.  Y'all, that is truly amazing.  Take my word for it.  Anyhoo,  I'm just about out of the hard lotion bar and don't have some key ingredients to make any more. We're getting ready to go out of state for Christmas and I don't want to be without some good, nourishing moisturizer.  So, I browsed through some recipes on the internet, tweaked them and came up with this healing salve which utilizes lavender and chamomile.


1/4 c. lavender buds
3 chamomile tea bags
1/4 c. grapeseed oil
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 Tbsp. jojoba oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. beeswax
8 drops lavender essential oil
3 drops chamomile essential oil

Here's How...

Put lavender buds and contents of chamomile tea bags into a small saucepan.

Add oils and gently warm them.  Once the oils are warm, turn off heat and allow to infuse for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, begin melting beeswax in a double boiler.  I don't technically have a double boiler, so here's what I do.  I place a folded wash cloth in the bottom of a large sauce pan filled with a little bit of water.  I then place my glass or ceramic bowl on the wash cloth. It has worked remarkably well for me.

Once your oils have infused with the herbs for a sufficient amount of time, pour the mixture through a piece of cheese cloth to separate the herbs from the oil.  Make sure to squeeze every last drop of that precious oil out. :0)

After the beeswax is melted, pour your herb infused oil into the beeswax and stir.  The beeswax will harden slightly when you do this.  Just give it another minute or so to remelt.

After all the oils and wax are together in a liquid state, remove from the double boiler and stir in the essential oils.  Pour into containers.  After a little trial and error (AKA spilling some) I realized that the best way to do this was to use a deep-sided tablespoon to put the liquid into the jars.  

Let cool completely before adding a lid or moving them.  This makes 4 ounces.  I used two 2 ounce containers, which is a pretty nice size for this.

Here is the finished salve.  It has a really nice, light fragrance.  I put a tub in my purse and one by the kitchen sink.  I really like it.  It's soothing and not greasy at all.  It isn't quite as hardy as the hard lotion bars, but seems to be great for applying after washing my hands or dishes.  It would also be good to put on scrapes, burns or bites as the lavender and chamomile are wonderful for those things.  Not to mention that the oils themselves are very healing.  All in all, I'm very pleased with how this salve turned out and will definitely be making it again when this batch runs out.

If you aren't completely happy with the consistency of your salve once it sets up, all you have to do is remelt it and add 1/2 Tbsp. more beeswax to make it firmer or a bit more oil to make it softer.  I like it using 1 1/2 Tbsp. of beeswax, personally.

Here's why the ingredients are so good...

These facts are taken from Natural Remedies for

grapeseed oilRich in vitamin E, C, D and Beta-carotene. Also contains all kinds of skin healthy essential fatty acids. These help repair damaged skin, wrinkles around the eyes, stretch marks, varicose veins and spider veins by penetrating the skin with their moisturizing properties. Also ideal for moisturizing oily skin. Keeps skin supple and healthy.

coconut oilSuper moisturizing oil, a solid at room temperature but melts easily on the skin. Its consistency makes it very easy to mix and very useful in facial masks. Protects skin from the elements by forming a thin film which is not absorbed. Also useful as an after sun oil. Good cleansing properties and very mild. 

jojoba oilAn extraordinary balancing oil, helps to regulate under-active and overactive oil glands. Natural humectants, that attracts and keeps moisture under your skin; absorbs quickly into the skin to moisturize. Very mild.

lavenderSoothes and calmes your skin, has antiviral, anti-fungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Can relieve muscle tension, speeds healing and reduces scarring. Also works as anti depressant, stimulates circulation, is a mild sedative and reduces nervous tension.

chamomileThere are Roman and German chamomile. They are rejuvenating and relaxing and have soothing effect on burns and irritations. Are also slightly sedative.

lavender essential oil ~ Has sedative and antiseptic properties. Relieves and heals skin irritations like, acne, abscess, eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis. Also very effective against burns, sunburns, wounds and insect bites. Calming; antidepressant, promotes clarity, enhances intuition, soothing, balancing. Helps normalize all skin conditions. Good for headaches and sinuses and is an effective insect repellent. Suitable for oily & combo skin.

chamomile essential oilCan be used as a softening agent for rough or irritated skin. Has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Good against: allergies, acne, burns, cuts, dermatitis, eczema, inflammations, insect bites, rashes, sensitive skin & wounds. Also have a calming effect on the mind and nervous system, are slightly sedative and have emollient properties. German chamomile has higher anti-inflammatory properties. Chamomile oil has very low toxicity so it is good for children.

beeswaxBeeswax locks in moisture, fosters cells and protects skin from damaging environmental factors. reports beeswax effectively "softens your skin and creates a long-lasting protective coating against the elements. It also is a naturally nourishing moisturizer as well as being anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-allergenic and a germicidal antioxidant." According to, "Even after processing, beeswax still remains a biologically active product, retaining some anti-bacterial properties and also contains some vitamin A, which is necessary for normal cell development." The Mayo Clinic recommends lip balm made from beeswax for chapped lip care and prevention.

Since beeswax does not clog pores, states, "When it is properly used, (beeswax) will not promote the formation of acne or pimples."

Read more: Skin Benefits of Beeswax |

These are but some of the benefits of the ingredients in this salve.  They are so wonderful that I could do an entire blog post on each one.  But, this is a very good overview.

UPDATE: My family has been using this salve for about 3 weeks now and have been very impressed with not only it's moisturizing ability, but it's skin healing ability as well.  I took it to MI with us over Christmas because my son's hands tend to break out when we're away from home. This salve got his hands back to normal more quickly than anything we've ever used.

Have you ever made your own salve?  Do you rely on commercial lotions to get you through those dry winter months?

I'm linking this post to Frugal Days - Sustainable WaysHomestead Barn HopHealthy 2day WednesdaysSimple Lives ThursdayLiving Well Blog HopWildcrafting Wednesdays and Your Green Resource.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

OK, y'all.  Today I need your help.  This past week I bought a new quilt and shams for our bed.  Both me and my husband loved the old coverlet.  It was very "us".  But, it was 6 or 7 years old and getting some discolorations on it that just wouldn't come out in the wash.  We knew it was time to move on.

old coverlet

I had to run into Kmart this past week and noticed that the quilt by Country Living that I've had my eye on every since they started carrying that line was on sale.  I was able to snag a king size quilt with matching pillow shams for $49.99. Yes!

Although you can't see it in this picture, it's really soft and textural and has a beautiful design stitched into it.

The reverse side has this light print with embroidery like the pillow shams in this picture.  It will be perfect for spring and summer.  

Here's a close up.  Ignore the dark spot that my camera loves to imprint into every picture. :0)

We are really happy with the new quilt.  As a matter of fact, I seem to be drawn to just about everything in Country Living's new home line.  It's also my favorite magazine.  I so look forward to every issue that comes.  Not that you care.  I'm just sayin'... :0)

Anyways, not one to waste - I now have a fabric from a king size coverlet, 2 king size shams and 2 valances.  Anybody have any ideas as to what I can transform all that material into?  I was kicking around the idea of cutting down the coverlet into a smaller throw.  Also, I switch all the red accessories from fall and winter out of my living and dining rooms every spring for light blues.  I could also go something along the lines of a table cloth.  But, being a novice sewer, I'm really open to ideas and suggestions at this point.  Any ideas for me?  Please?  :0)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Skin Care Series ~ Egg Mask

For today's contribution to the skin care series, I wanted to share a face mask.  I got this out of the book "French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes and Pleasure" by Mireille Guilano.

This book along with it's sister, "French Women Don't Get Fat", are both well worth the read if you're looking for some practical, natural advise and luxuriously delicious recipes.  But, I digress...

This face mask uses only two ingredients and is good for all skin types.  It is especially useful this time of year with many holiday gatherings and parties upon us.

Simply mix an egg yolk with a few drops of olive oil and leave on the face for 15 minutes. Remove with a warm wash cloth.  You can also add 1 tsp. of honey to this mask for extra benefits.  

Why this works...
Egg yolks are mostly water and fats, making them very emollient.  This means that egg yolks actually bring moisture to your skin and lock it in leaving you with smooth, supple and soft skin.  They are also very healing for blemishes.

Olive oil is an excellent moisturizer, helps to shrink pores and to lessen acne. Some evidence also suggests that it can aid in repairing sun-damaged skin.

Honey is naturally antioxidant and antimicrobial.  This means it helps to protect the skin from sun-damage as well as to replenish and rejuvenate the skin.  It absorbs and retains moisture, leaving skin refreshed and preventing dryness.  Honey is also used in treating acne, especially relating to changes in hormones.

I have done this and been very happy with the results.  There are many other natural face masks, some of which I'll attempt to touch upon in the future. 

This link to Home Remedies for Life has several more variations on egg yolk masks.

A note...
Because you're only using the yolk for this mask, you can freeze the whites in a baggie and use them for merengue, or anything else you only need egg whites for.  That means there is no waste. :0)

Have you ever tried this remedy or do you have another favorite you always pull out when your skin needs a little extra attention?

I'm sharing this post with Monday ManiaHomestead Barn HopHealthy 2day Wednesdays and Your Green Resource.

Friday, December 16, 2011

En Lieu of a Card

I'd like to share something with you today that goes hand in hand with the post I did a couple of days ago about frugal gift wrapping.  This time we're talking about cards, though.  I actually got this idea from a blog post that I read about someone throwing a baby shower and asking that everyone bring a favorite, used child's book inscribed with who it was from instead of a card.  This would help build a library as well as be a lasting memento from friends and loved ones.  I can't remember which blog I saw this on, but if you recognize this, please let me know and I'll give due credit.  

As it just so happens, I have a friend who is due with her first baby any time.  With this idea in mind, I set out for Goodwill since my "baby" is long past the days of these sorts of books.  I didn't find any small books that jumped out at me, but found this gem.

For less than the price of a card I found this large storybook that was in beautiful condition.

This friend is pretty well set on baby items, so opted to get her a gift card which she could use for any odds and ends she needs for the baby, or to get something for herself once the little bundle gets here.  

I taped the gift card to the inside and inscribed it.  I will end up wrapping this or putting it in a recycled gift bag since I ended up doing things a little backwards.  But, I love the idea of giving (or getting) two gifts in one.

This got me thinking... You could actually apply this principle to any gift.  Christmas books for Christmas presents.  Any favorite book for birthday presents.  You could even do this for weddings or anniversaries with an appropriate marriage building or devotional book for couples.

If you've looked at the price of cards lately, well, you know they ain't cheap.  Books on the other hand can be found for a dime a dozen at yard sales, thrift stores and Goodwill.  And, if you're anything like me, you have hoards of them in your own stash to choose from.

So, tell me - have you ever inscribed a book en lieu of a card?  Do you have any other brilliant ideas along these gifting lines just waiting to be recognized?

I'm linking this post to Frugal Days - Sustainable Ways and Your Green Resource.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Skin and Body Care ~ Two More Toners

Today I want to share two more things that make wonderful skin toners with you.

The first is chamomile.  Chamomile is beneficial as a natural skin care treatment because of it's anti-inflammatory properties and it's ability to promote cell regeneration.  It is also helpful for problem skin affected by rashes, acne, eczema, psoriasis, scars, spider veins, age spots, discoloration and allergic conditions. 

The way that I use this is to simply brew a cup of chamomile tea from a bag and let it cool.  You're certainly welcome to dry your own flowers and brew the tea that way.  

Dab a cotton ball in the tea, gently apply it to your face and let it dry.  Store this in the refrigerator in a covered container.  I notice that my skin is very soft after I use chamomile as a toner.

Incidentally, chamomile is a home remedy for pink eye and is also said to be useful for reducing swelling from bites or stings as well.

The next item I want to share with you is apple cider vinegar.  According to, apple cider vinegar is packed with alpha-hydroxy and amino acids that help to dissolve dead skin cells, balance the pH level of skin and stimulate blood circulation. The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar stimulates the capillaries under the skin, leaving you with a soft glow.  

To use, mix equal parts ACV and distilled or spring water in a small (preferably glass) spray bottle and spritz on face after washing, but before moisturizing.  The smell will dissipate once it dries.  Alternatively, you can add a few drops of an essential oil to not only mask the odor, but to add more rejuvenating benefits to your toner.  Below, you'll find listed some good choices with their known contributions to skin care.  There is no need to refrigerate this version.

Lavender ~ known to restore skin elasticity and retard wrinkles
Frankincense ~ a strong revitalizing EO that is good for lightening age spots
Spikenard ~ retards wrinkles, revitalizes skin
Myrrh ~ retards wrinkles
Carrot seed oil ~ one of the strongest revitalizing EOs for the skin
Ylang Ylang & Rosewood ~ restores elasticity
Geranium & Helichrysum ~ regenerates skin
Sandalwood, Patchouli & Neroli ~ revitalizes skin

Definitions from the New Oxford American Dictionary:

restore = return to a former condition; repair or renovate so as to return it to its original condition

revitalize = imbue (something) with new life and vitality

regenerate = regrow (new tissue) to replace lost or injured tissue; regrow; bring into renewed existence, generate again

Some variations on the ACV toner would be...

Mix in thirds - ACV, distilled water and green tea which is full of anti-oxidants that are known to prevent wrinkling and dark circles under the eyes.

Other additions include chamomile, rose water and aloe vera.

Store any of these variations in the refrigerator for up to a month.

For more posts in this series click here.

I'm sharing this post at Simple Lives Thursdays and Your Green Resource.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wrapping Paper Money Saving Tip

Take a look under my Christmas tree.  What do you notice?

I kept trying to get a closer shot for you, but kept getting pics like this...

and this...

Apparently my dog felt that it was her duty to climb right underneath me the moment I laid on the floor to try and take a photo.  She has no consideration for the artistic. :0) But, shoot, look how happy she is! LOL

Anyway, I did manage to snap a close up that didn't include my pooch. Check out all the packages.  Ignore the light cords. :0)

What I wanted you to notice is that all the packages are wrapped in the same paper.  There's a reason for this.  I'm cheap frugal. :0)

A few years ago I was at Hobby Lobby after Christmas when all of their holiday merchandise was 80 or 90 percent off.  I saw this huge roll of wrapping paper for a little bit of nothing and the wheels started churning.  I realized that this wrapping paper really acted as a neutral backdrop and that by adding different ribbons, doodads and bobbles it could be used for any gift, not just Christmas.  This was great  for me not only because it was on sale - this meant that I wouldn't have to buy separate paper for birthdays, weddings and baby showers.  Also, it's much easier to store one roll of wrapping paper than it is to store five.  This is really heavy paper that has a grid on the back for cutting straight lines so it doesn't look like you were in a drunken stupor when you wrapped presents.

Pastel ribbons work well for baby gifts.  Silver or white lends itself to weddings or wedding showers.  And, bright ribbons work well for birthdays. I have also used raffia as the ribbon for this paper.   You could also get creative and add doodads like a silver spoon or rattle to the outside of the package for a baby gift.

My money saving point is this... Instead of buying several different papers to wrap many different occasions, buy one versatile roll and use it for everything.  Or, re-purpose brown paper bags and stamp them yourself to match different occasions.  Better yet, hand the kiddies a box of crayons or some paint and let them go to town creating a one of a kind wrapping paper.  

Right now, Hobby Lobby usually runs their wrapping supplies at 50% off.  But, after Christmas the discounts will get deeper.  I know that Hob Lob will take the discounts all the way to 80% or 90%.  Most stores operate this way.  I've had this paper for about 3 years now and still have quite a bit left.  But, I'm planning on hitting up Hob Lob when they deeply discount the Christmas stuff again and pick up another versatile roll as well as different colors of curling ribbons.  That way I'll be prepared for whatever parties come our way this year for just a bit of change. :0) 

One more tip on these lines.  When the discounts hit 80% - 90%, I often use that time to buy really beautiful ornaments and store them away for the next year.  These are great to add to gift baskets or to use as part of the wrapping by attaching with the ribbon.  They would also make lovely teacher gifts without breaking the bank.

What do you use for wrapping paper?  Are you a one paper for all purposes person, like me?  Or, do you have many beautiful papers for each occasion?  Do you have any wrapping tips or money saving ideas?  Please, feel free to share them in the comments.  People helping people and all... :0)

I'm sharing this post at Frugal Days - Sustainable WaysYour Green ResourceHomestead Barn Hop and Simple Lives Thursdays.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Soft Ginger Cookies

Yesterday was our last day of homeschool group for the year and we had a Christmas Cookie Exchange.  Although I am not supposed to eat gluten, I participated anyway.  I've always thought it would be fun to do a cookie exchange and thought at the very least I could freeze the ones I bring home and serve to company.

I am a lover of all things spicy, ginger, etc.  So, on that note, I made Soft Ginger Cookies.  Here's the recipe.


2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. molasses
2 Tbsp. sugar

Here's How...

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter for 30 seconds.  Add 1 c. sugar.  Beat until fluffy.

2.  Add egg and molasses - beat well.  Add half the flour mixture at a time and beat until just combined.  

3.  Shape into 1" balls.  Roll in 2 Tbsp. sugar.  Place on un-greased cookie sheets or baking stone 2" apart.  Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes or until light brown and puffed.  Let cool for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks or plate to finish cooling.

Makes about 36 cookies.

I'm linking this to Teach Me Tuesdays and These Chicks Cooked.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancakes

Breakfast has been my greatest challenge as we've embarked upon this gluten free journey.  We've never been big cereal eaters.  My son doesn't care for oatmeal.  And, you can only eat eggs so many times a week.  Sometimes I just miss bread-based foods.  Can I get a witness? :0)

I recently came across a cookbook at the library that has some really great recipes that I've been trying, "Gluten-Free Made Simple; Easy Everyday Meals That Everyone Can Enjoy".

There is a very good recipe for buckwheat pancakes in this cookbook.  My version is an adaptation of that.  These pancakes are a huge hit with the guys in my house.  Everyone appreciates a little variety on the breakfast (or dinner) table.

Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancakes:

3/4 c. buckwheat flour
3/4 c. gluten-free all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar (preferably organic or Sucanat)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
1/4 c. butter, melted


1. In a large bowl combine both flours, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Slowly add milk, eggs and melted butter.  Stir together until smooth.

2.  Lightly butter a skillet or griddle and heat over medium heat.  Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle once it's hot.  I've found an ice cream scoop works great for this.  Cook until brown and done in center, turning halfway through.


These are wonderfully delicious and amazingly filling.

Spices such as cinnamon, fruit or chocolate chips added to the batter could very easily change these pancakes up to suit anyone's preferences.

Freeze any extras in individual size portions for a quick and healthy gluten-free breakfast later.  Or, better, make a double batch to do this on purpose!  Heat in the toaster just like you would the frozen boxes of pancakes that are sold in the stores.

I'm linking this to Monday ManiaTraditional TuesdaysHearth and Soul Blog HopFat TuesdayTeach Me TuesdaysHealthy2Day WednesdaysSimple Lives Thursday and These Chicks Cook.